The DresdenVerse

Dancing the Black Spiral

Player’s Note: This was Chip’s first time taking over the story, and also the first time someone other than Les ran the game. What made it interesting was that it was a mostly investigative adventure, and our main investigator (Chip’s character Miles) was out of most of the adventure.

Kevin’s Journal (typed up from Aunt Gladys’ shorthand and submitted to the White Council).

This investigation began much earlier, with Miles doing most of the work. However, as my report shows, the rest of us jumped into this with about half the informatin, and proceeded without the benefit of Miles’ information until we had nearly resolved the issue. I’ll start with where we (Vinnie, Jasmine and myself) got involved.

It was a Saturday morning in early December. We had planned on meeting at my residence for a personal get together. Miles didn’t show up, and attempts to contact him or his closest ally (the Federal Consultant Mason) failed. Concerned, we drove from Santa Cruz up to his residence in Silicon Valley.

He had clearly not been home in some time (we found several days of mail left in his mailbox), so we went to his office (Second Sight Investigations). He could not be found there either, though there was evidence in his office that he had been working hard on a recent case. Discussions with his secretary, Veronica, confirmed this.

(Kevin’s personal note, editted out of the official report to the White Council): Miles had been distant for some time. A few months ago, two recent hires of his had been killed under mysterious circumstances while on a case. He’d taken it personally and had become very guarded and uncommunicative.

I went over to his office on Thursday to say high, and noticed how bad of a shape he was in. I felt he could clearly use some good company and a break for his work. I quickly put together a sort of baby-shower party and invited the whole group – including Veronica and Mason. It was admittedly just an excuse to get Miles out of his office and around his friends. I felt he could really use us right now, and I was worried that his drinking might have gotten out of hand. Unfortunately, that meant that Veronica was with us Saturday morning, and hadn’t seen or talked to Miles since she left work on Friday. [End personal note]

We spent some time going through Miles’ notes and various documents scattered about his office. From what we could piece together, his current project had something to do with several people that had gone to school together at Berkley. The names were Stan Neidlemeyer (accused serial killer?), Kevin Williams (Mayor of Albany – near Berkley), and Tim Cohen (a Lawyer, that represented Stan). Additionally, there was mention of a …… , and something called “dancing the Black Spiral”.

A quick research of the name … revealed he was a (role playing) game desinger that lived in the east oakland hills. After visiting him and asking about the black spiral, we discovered that Miles and Mason had been there the previous day asking the same questions (neighbors confirmed this). In addition, we learned that he had made up the “black spiral” for the game, and had originally come up with it because he had overheard K. Williams talking about it at Berkley in the library.

We decided to follow up on the Berkley / K. Williams link next. Utiizing my alumni status at the univeristy we were able to learn that several Aptos High School graduates had hung out in the library together, matching our list discovered at Miles’ office. Checking back further, we got a larget list of names (using our non-magical allies) of a group of students that worked together at Aptos and Berkley, all tremendously successful. One of them was Oakland police chief Jim Baker.

At this time, we got a tip from one of our allies in the Oakland PD. He had apparantly been helping out Mason and Miles with the investigation. Miles and Mason were interested in several locations in the east oakland hills, and had asked their police allies to monitor them for unusual activity. Unfortunately, one officer had put out an official APB on several of the locations, and everything was going to crap. This made us suspect immediately that whoever Miles was investigating had strong ties with law enforcement (likely chief Baker himself, given his already connection). We tried to track down the officer who had put out the report, but he could not be reached. Concerned, we went to his home. At the officer’s home, we saw him as he was walking up – he was agitated and clearly worried about something. A brief talk revealed he’d just been grilled by his superiors like he’d done something wrong. We asked if he’d seen anyone matching Miles or Masons’ descriptions and he confirmed he’d seen both of them at a safe house (NOT an actual police office) in the east oakland hills. We got the location and immediately headed out.

Arriving at the safehouse, we parked a mile away and approached quietly on foot. Using some quick magic, we were able to determine there were four people in the house – one clearly tied up, and one of them giving off more heat than a human could survive. Two cars (still warm) were parked out front, and a fifth policeman was standing out front keeping watch. As we planned an approach, a third vehicle drove up. We waited for the driver (a man in a suit) to enter the building, then veiled ourselves for the approach. We hexed the three vehicles (modern cars with complex electronic ignition systems are easy for wizards to disable) and Vinnie quietly knocked out the policeman with his martial arts skills.

With the guard knocked out, we proceeded around the side of the building, to where the prisoner and the “hot” humanoid was. We quickly opened a magical gate into the room and saw Mason tied up to chair, with a strange man in robes standing over him. The man in the suit (some type of legal person) was anxiously watching whatever he was doing, with a recording device and papers on the table. I quickly freed Mason from his manacles, as the two other policemen entered the room (with heavy assault weapons). Then the robed man began some form of rite, summoning up a spirit to enter his body. Later investigation would reveal the man to be practicing a variant of native american shaman magic, he summoned a powerful spirit to enter his body and grant him power. The robed man summoned a powerful sandstorm spirit, and Vinnie and Jasmine fought him off. The two policemen opened up with their weapons, but I was able to deflect or absorb their attack with my magic. I quickly convinced them to exit the room (the policemen were surprised and alarmed at the robed man’s transformation – clearly they were not aware of his abilities or true nature). Jasmine and Vinnie defeated the spirit, but when it left the man it damaged his body enough to kill him. With the immediate threat over, I began calming down the police and we talked things out.

We learned that both Miles and Mason had been taken to the safe house and interrogated. They were arrested as suspected terrorists, on the authority of the Oakland police chief. The lawyer was present to observe and record Mason’s testimony, ostensibly to later “legalize” what had happened. The police were in way over their heads, and after much talking realized what they were doing was way out of line. Once we explaine Mason’s status as a federal agent, they were even more concerned. We convinced them to leave and then focused on the lawyer.

The lawyer caved quickly after Jasmine talked to him. He said he knew the law firm was into some deep thing (Cohen’s firm in San Francisco), and that he was just there to help make things “legit” later. We let him go and then proceeded to search the vehicles. It turned out the shaman was a harold stormcrow, probably related to Maneesh stormcrow (known to be in the circle of friends from Aptos high school and UC Berkley). We quickly got Mason to safety and regrouped for our next action.

Sunday Morning we found out that a bunch of strange murders had happened the previous night up in the Aptos hills. We weren’t sure about the significance, but since the entire Oakland PD was on a manhunt, we used the opportunity to sneak into the police headquarters and acquire something of chief Baker’s (from his office) that would be a strong sympathetic connection. Using his shot glass, we found out that he was in the East Oakland hills directing a manhunt (so far unsuccessful).

With our team more rested, we discovered that the killings in the hills were following a spiral pattern, perhaps related to this “black spiral dance”. We extrapolated the path of the killer and intercepted, avoiding the police on the way. What we found was a homeless man, clearly possessed by some angry spirit. The man was also trying to fight it, or at least the spirit didn’t have him entirely. Vinnie and Jasmine tried to assemble a circle to suck out the spirit (or at least ground out it’s power), but couldn’t get it ready in time. Fortunately, I was able to conjure up a happy image and distract the man long enough for us to get him to fight the spirit and banish it from him. When the man recovered we learned he had been grabbed and forced to have the spirit “ride” him, performing the “dance of the black spiral”, murdering random people in a pattern. What’s worse, it appears that the dance itself was just the icing on the cake – whatever the ritual was intended to do had already been done. To make matters more ominous, the weather was getting colder (this was confirmed by our sources in the fey courts).

The homeless man was taken to a care facility and later smuggled out of state. At this point we realized we really needed Miles and had run out of places to look. On a hunch, we headed back to the safehouse in the hills and searched the vehicles again – looking for anything of Miles’ they might have left behind that might give us a sympathetic connection to him. We were lucky and found his “lucky hat”. A simple trace spell led us to the law offices of Cohen in downtown San Francisco, late on a Sunday night. What was wierder was that the spell indicated that he was between the 12th and 14th floors (no 13th floor on the building), though there was no sign of such a hidden place in the real world or the never-never. Someone was either very clever or very talented. Additional spying on chief Baker revealed he had some regrets about what he was doing, and we planned to approach him later. We also learned that there was an important meet-up in seven days time between him and the rest of his group.

Searching the law office, we figured out that there was a secret floor reachable by elevator. We stormed in, finding two guards who were quickly convinced to surrender. A third man, capable of some minor mind/though magic (breaking the first and third laws) using some artifacts attacked us. Clearly, he had never heard of the “white council”, “wardens”, or “wizards” and was no match for us. In a back room, we found Miles fighting off the laywer Cohen – when the man unleashed another artifact (breaking Miles’ legs, a few ribs, and bruising his hip) and escaping through some type of portal device. We quickly gathered Miles along with a large amount of legal files hidden in the room and left.

Between talking to Miles and searching through the law offices files we learned a lot. The whole thing began when the lawyer hired second sight to go find some dangerous artifacts for them. Miles thought it was a simple investigation, but Cohen intended to keep the artifacts for his own use. In the confusion, Miles’ new hires were killed (this was a few months ago). Digging deeper, Miles eventually learned about this Black Spiral Dance. Apparantly, it had been going on for years – often every 6-18 months a homeless man would go on a spiral dance, killing several people. This process was powering some large ritual, and the dance this week was the last one.

Miles had thought the dance would occur at mid-winter, but he had instead been contacted by Stan Neidlmeyer, who’d done the first dance willingly, to tip him off that it was happening NOW. It turns out Stan (after being acquitted of those murders) has had some second thoughts over the years and wanted to help out. Unfortunately, we’d not yet talked to him. It also appeared, through research done by my cousin Stacy, that the Stormcrow family and others had been quite successful in the bay area, ever since the late 1980’s.

Looking into the law firm, it was clear they were some bad people. Everything from defending very guilty and bad people to smuggling, money laundering, you name it. Cohen had been using his limited knowledge of magic to find and use whatever items he could to expand his own power base. At this point, we decided to confront chief Baker – thinking we could get him to turn on his allies, or at least provide us with better information.

Unfortunately for us, after confronting Baker that evening, he simply called his allies and brought them in to talk to us. We had a brief talk with someone claiming to be Maneesh’s uncle and saying “it had all been a misunderstanding” and he wanted to set up a neutral meeting between us and his nephew. We agreed on a spot the next day in the Saratoga hills.

We used the time between the meeting and now to learn more about the locals. A third attempt to spy on Chief Baker was thwarted – this time by a magical defense. Clearly our opponents had an ally with real magical ability. More research into the black spiral and the former students of Aptos high revealed a surprising amount of luck in their history. An unusual amount of success, even for an affluent city in California. We also looked into the geography as well. Seismological data revealed that several key ley lines overlaid key fault lines in the area. And during the 1980’s while the students were at Aptos there was a major earthquake right on the Aptos fault line. As if on queue, we experienced a medium earthquake that morning. My cousin (with her expertise on native american culture) learned that there was a location in an Aptos hills park that was sacred to the local tribes as a “victory” spot. Perhaps this was where the Aptos alumni intended to meet in a few days.

The meeting with Maneesh was surprising. A view of the area revealed that he and his family were guarded by many spirits in the never-never (mostly wild, hunting or animal themed). Maneesh claimed that he had done what he did to raise up an ancient spirit named Uthgar. He believed this spirit gave him power, to reclaim the area for his tribe. The area would be in a permanent state of winter. He acted like he knew about the never-never rules, and the laws of magic. He claimed he never broke the laws (HE never murdered with magic, never contacted an outsider, etc.). It was a shaky argument. What’s more, he offerred his power as an ally of the White Council (probably to buy us off). I didn’t like the idea of negotiating with anyone that was a killer (magical or otherwise), but the team couldn’t agree, and we decided to talk to a council member first.

Messages were left for Listen To Winds (as the appropriate member to call, given his area of expertise, and our previous contact with him). We then decided to finally talk with Stan Neidelmeyer, Miles’ contact. Stan was understandably nervous, and revealed some key points to us. What had happened was that in high school Maneesh had discovered that by performing a ritual dance by the Aptos site, he could gain luck and victory in “battle” (in this case sports). Over time, he invited more people to this event. Everything changed when Greg joined them though. Greg figured out something must be going on and actively sought out Maneesh. Greg suggested they sacrifice an animal for greater effect. On the day the sacrifice was to take place, Greg brough his girlfriend and changed the plan – they would sacrifice HER. The result was the 7.5 earthquake in the Aptos hills and power they’d never dreamed of.

From this point several things became clear. One, Greg was the dark wizard helping them – and he was guilty of breaking at least the First Law. With Greg’s change to the ritual, they realized what they could achieve – and that they could gain more power and success. Over time that’s what they did. When Stan made the first Black Spiral Dance, he was horrified at what he did. From that moment on, he and all the members were haunted by dreams from the sleeping ancient spirit.

When we got back to our tower, Listen To Winds arrived with several apprentices to inform us that ‘hell no’ was the answer. Apparantly this spirit was nasty, deadly, and had been put down by his ancestors for a “damn good reason”. With this directive, we launched an attack on Greg’s home. Sure enough, we found Maneesh and some of his allies in residence. I called out to Greg that he was guilty of breaking the First Law and must face justice. He stormed with Maneesh and some other of the Stormcrow clan.

I quickly dispatched Greg, beheading him as his crime warranted. Maneesh and his brothers used spirits to gain animalistic powers and strength. Jasmine was able to summon a gust of wind to pin down the two lesser spirit “riders”. They did manage to maul both myself and Jasmine a bit. Vinnie and Jasmine were then faced with dealing with Maneesh while I attempted to stun and incapacitate the lesser foes. Finally, it became clear the Maneesh needed to be stopped and I approached him and calmed him down by reaching his spirit and preventing him from accessing its powers.

With Maneesh and his allies stopped, and Greg brought to justice we worked with Listens to Winds to put the ancient spirit back to rest. It has fallen on us to see to that the justice system of the mundane world deals with those that deserve it. We have also decided to allow Maneesh to continue learning magic, though he will be watched for any violation of the laws. Through a tragic set of circumstances, a bunch of misguided (and also some rather evil) people did quite a bit of harm in the area. It is my belief that Maneesh and his family are redeemable, and I will work to make sure he becomes a capable and responsible wizard. Should he fail to do so, his punishment will fall on my shoulders.

End of Report.



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